Articles

Merdeka Award Young Researchers’ Circle: For A Future That Shines Bright

19 APRIL 2021, BY Merdeka Award
DSC03982-1.JPGIn conjunction with the United Nations World Creativity and Innovation Day on 21 April, Merdeka Award highlights work such as that undertaken by Dr Lee Tian Khoon (or better known as Dr. Edison among his colleagues), reiterating the importance of raising awareness on creativity and innovation in solving some of the greatest challenges facing people and the planet.

Who needs the Energizer Bunny when you have the exuberant Dr Edison Lee Tian Khoon rewriting industry norms on batteries and sustainable energy?

Dr Edison’s award-winning research in alternative energy storage has earned him world-wide acclaim (check it out on Google Scholar) and prestige. More recently, his work on Converting Rubber Material for Advanced Energy Storage and Conversion led to him receiving the prestigious Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment (MAGIA) in 2018.

His research work looks at how to convert rubber, which is a natural insulator, into a conducting material. Sounds counter-logic? This is where his research work provides evidence that rubber can indeed be used for various electrochemical devices such as lithium-ion batteries. The truth is, research in this field  is niche but holds profound possibilities to positively impact the environment and society, for generations to come.

According to the World Economic Forum on renewable energy in 2050, the future is about developing a fully sustainable global energy landscape. Research and innovation on ion-lithium batteries is one possible route to achieving this, as evidenced by the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries. 

Dr Edison further explained that, “The aim of this research is to reduce the dependency of petrochemical-based polymer for electrolytes application and to produce more environmentally benign and safer electrochemical devices at a lower cost.” 

As rubber is a national commodity, he firmly believes that success in the area will provide a huge opportunity for Malaysia as well as further increase the economic value of rubber. 

He continues: “My work helps Malaysia to grow in energy storage technology through research & innovation. Now is the era of lithium-ion battery technology, as there are many applications for it, such as in Electric Vehicles. We don’t want to lose this opportunity to our neighboring country. I sincerely hope more effort can be put in by the government and industry to attract foreign investors in this sector because this is the future.” 

What does it take for a star to shine?

Winning the grant at the age of 32, Dr Edison firmly established that age had little bearing, as the win was a result of determination and passion. “The award is especially opportune for bright young minds, a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Acknowledging the patience and support of his mother, fiancée, and colleagues in his journey to excellence, Dr Edison states, “I had taken the less travelled route by pursuing a PhD first. Yet, I never regretted my decision because I knew what I wanted and foresaw the importance of this research.”

Being chosen as a grant recipient allowed Dr Edison to head to Uppsala University, a research university in Sweden, to learn, collaborate and network with some of the best during the attachment programme.

“Before I won the award, the journey was difficult, challenging, strenuous, and long. Thanks to the Merdeka Award, I got a real opportunity at the right time, it was a stepping stone in my career development.”   

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On defining innovation, he says, “It is not just technical and scientific discoveries that can be innovative. Innovation is anything that will help in creating more opportunity in socio-economic, environmental, and technological ecosystems.”

Just like his namesake Thomas Edison – whose inventions illuminated our world – Dr Edison firmly believes the future is bright. “I foresee in the next 10 years; we will see a different world.” With the likes of Dr Edison leading the charge, the future does indeed shine bright.

“I believe that the only way to do great work is to love what you do. You should put in your best with a clear-headed purpose and know where you are heading to,” Dr Edison says. “Use your talents to inspire others with your work and experience,” the bright mind says.

Work and research done by Dr Edison is on track to achieving a sustainable future driven by innovation. 

To learn more about Dr Edison’s work on Converting Rubber Material for Advanced Energy Storage and Conversion please visit Merdeka Award website to read his profile and of other inspiring winners.

The Merdeka Award Grant for International Attachment (MAGIA) is a signature initiative of the Merdeka Award Trust. The Grant offers short-term attachment programmes at internationally recognised host institutions. This enables distinguished young Malaysians to engage in collaborative programmes that enhance their work, expertise, and achievements. To learn more about the Merdeka Award and its grants, please visit  https://www.merdekaaward.my/
 
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Dr Edison Lee Tian Khoon
Dr Edison headed to Sweden’s Uppsala University, where he joined the Department of Chemistry, Ångström Laboratory, as part of his attachment stint. He is currently carrying out active research in polymer electrolyte and nanomaterials for Lithium-ion batteries. Read more about him here:
Innovating the Energy Ecosystem
Chrishen R. Gomez
Having attended the prestigious Ivy League Brown University as part of his attachment programme, 27-year-old Chrishen is now with the Wildlife Research and Conservation Unit at Oxford University. Chrishen is busy developing a genetic-based research project on the Sunda Clouded Leopard. Read more about him here: Conserving Our Forests & Future
 
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